December 2013 Church & State | AU Bulletin

In a blow to the Religious Right, the U.S. Senate in Nov­ember passed legislation designed to curb discrimination against Americans based on sexual orientation or gender preference.

The bill, the Employment Non-discrimination Act, passed 64-32 Nov. 7, winning support from every Democrat in the Senate who voted and a number of Republicans.

Religious Right groups oppose the measure. Before the vote, the American Family Association issued an email asserting that the bill would “force religious business owners and workplaces such as Christian bookstores, religious publishing houses, pre-schools and religious television and radio stations to accept as normal any employee who has had a sex-change surgery, is considering a change, or just thinks they are the opposite sex of what they really are.”

In fact, the legislation includes exemptions for religious organizations. In addition, the Senate adopted an amendment by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that prohibits the federal government from denying contracts to religious organizations that discriminate against LGBT Americans.

A more far-reaching amendment put forth by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that would have given secular organizations and corporations a broad right to discriminate was rejected by a 55-43 vote.

Americans United Legislative Director Maggie Garrett urged senators to vote against the Toomey proposal.

“There is no need to expand a standard that has been law and successfully invoked in hundreds of cases by religious corporations, associations, and educational institutions,” she wrote in a Nov. 6 letter to senators. “Nor is there a reason to introduce new and unclear standards and terms, as the Toomey Amendment would.”

The bill is expected to encounter stiff resistance in the House of Representatives.